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The players union should be looking at itself, MLB and the drug testing program, not A-Rod

Jan 22, 2014, 11:32 AM EDT

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Ken Rosenthal takes a good smart look at what has transpired with A-Rod, the MLBPA and Major League Baseball in the wake of the Biogenesis investigation and thinks that the union’s ire at Alex Rodriguez, however understandable, is misplaced.

Rosenthal argues that the union should be thinking hard about just how much power MLB grabbed in this whole affair and how, despite how much of a jerk everyone thinks A-Rod is, what that power grab might mean for players who aren’t as moneyed and loathed as he is.

Hard to disagree. Like they say, hard cases make bad law. A-Rod’s case, because it involves such a difficult figure and led to such an extreme set of circumstances, has now created a troubling precedent for the union. The players need to set aside their personal feelings about the specific player involved and make sure the process which hammered him to their great satisfaction, doesn’t hammer someone else who, on the surface, seems less deserving of such treatment.

  1. chip56 - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:46 AM


    The issue I have with Rosenthal’s column, and your follow up, is that it assumes that the players are against what happened here. From what I’m reading it doesn’t sound like they are. It sounds like they’re almost relieved to have handed MLB a stronger hammer to hit PED users with.

    • peymax1693 - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      I think your missing Craig’s point. He is saying that instead of focusing their ire on A-Rod, the players should be concerned about giving MLB a stronger hammer, because nobody knows who they will use it on next.

      • chip56 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        I’m not missing it, just not agreeing with it. I don’t think the players care about the next guy banned for PED use. I think that, by and large, the clean players are fed up with the users and couldn’t care less if a guy who gets caught suits up again.

        He hasn’t said anything and so this is total conjecture, but you have to think that Stephen Drew is pissed that he’s looking for a job while Peralta got a nice contract from a contending team.

      • cackalackyank - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        I see as not just being the who, as the what. Maybe the next thing that will be punished, or the next witch hunt will be about hair style, choice of car…other “lifestyle” issues…hint, hint.

      • Francisco (FC) - Jan 22, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        No less a figure than Matt Holliday, known Anti-PED crusader, has accepted Peralta as a team-mate since he served his suspension and thus paid his dues.

        Once a player serves his suspension they should be treated just like any other player. GM’s will have to use whatever information they have at their disposal to evaluate a talent that tested positive and try to find out how much of the ability was natural and how much of it enhanced. Considering the good reputation of the Cardinal’s front office for evaluating talent I’m guessing they believe Peralta is likely not that different a player without PEDs. We’ll see if it pans out.

      • raysfan1 - Jan 22, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        Neither who (an unpopular player) nor what (the infraction committed, whether PEDs or otherwise) is the issue the union needs to address. The issue the union needs to ensure occurs is due process. They can agree to whatever sanctions, and not hurt their own position. What they have to get angry about, and fight tooth and nail over, is the abuses Rodriguez alleges that MLB committed, some of which have been confirmed. The union has to fight allowing stolen evidence to be used, for example. If they don’t, there’s little to prevent any level of spying on players with or without just cause, other than trusting in the integrity of league and team front offices. I would not accord them that must trust.

      • anxovies - Jan 22, 2014 at 5:30 PM

        chip: whether or not they agree with the suspension and want to get rid of players who use PEDs they should be concerned with the hammer that has been handed to their bosses. History has proven that when you give power to somebody it’s not easy to take it back.

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      Powers like this are bargaining chips for the union. They shouldn’t be handed out with nothing coming back in return. That’s not how a properly negotiated set of rules work. In effect MLB just grabbed a significant amount of power and the MLBPA got nothing out of it. Also, it sets the precedent for potential player rights abuse based on Commissioner say so.

      • chip56 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        From a negotiating standpoint you’re 100% right. But at the same time I don’t think this is something that the PA or leadership wanted to be seen as playing games with. “Punish the users” that’s the message and they’re ok with it.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        Everyone is saying the same thing to you and you seem to get it. Which is good. It won’t take but one incident of a high handed commissioner move against a player to illustrate why its such a bad idea to give up so much power without anything in return. At the very least, the MLBPA should have a say in the “Best Interests of Baseball” clause.

    • unclemosesgreen - Jan 22, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      The issue I have with your comment is that it presupposes that the rank and file have a clear understanding about what sort of precedent is being set here and how it jibes with their long-term interests as a union. They don’t. If MLBPA just conducted business and answered every question by doing a straw poll of every player they would be in a much weaker position than they are.

      MLBPA stepped in it here, and they have a bad leadership problem brewing. Tony Clark wasn’t ready to step up and replace Michael Weiner. The players made a bad decision in electing Clark and now they’re already reaping some of the problems associated with that decision.

      • peymax1693 - Jan 22, 2014 at 1:57 PM

        The players are apparently oblivious to the fact that approving of the way MLB disciplined A-Rod did something that the owners were unable to do for decades during each and every labor dispute; weaken the MLBPA.

  2. yordo - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Thank you for your continued support of this innocent man.

    • Old Gator - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      Boy, I just hope it’s this old prescription I’m using while my progressives are being repaired, and that the sarcasm font will stand out more clearly when I get my good specs back.

  3. peymax1693 - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    I can certainly understand the players being unable to grasp the consequences of giving MLB more power to punish PED users, but what was the Union leadership thinking?

    • chip56 - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      They’re possibly thinking that this is what our constituents want – stiffer penalties for PED users and that by handing MLB this hammer now, they a) don’t have to reopen the CBA and b) can evaluate how it goes for when the next round of bargaining does take place in 2016.

      • peymax1693 - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:59 AM

        It just seems to me that giving MLB more power to punish players with nothing in return only has the potential of hurting other players, and I always thought one of the goals of union leadership is to protect the rank and file against themselves.

      • chip56 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        The problem is that the majority of players don’t see MLB as the enemy in this. They see the players who are abusing the system as the problem and would be fine with full season suspensions for first offenses.

      • bfunk1978 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Whether the players want it or not, they should re-open the CBA so that they’re not setting a precedent of just letting MLB do what it wants.

      • paperlions - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        What they’ve essentially done is allow the local magistrate to decide penalties on a whim. There is a reason that law exists to establish penalties for violations.

        The point is that they should be careful what they wish for….they may want stiffer penalties, but those penalties should be defined, not at the whim of MLB.

      • chip56 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:33 PM

        I look at it as a 2 year pilot program. If the PA doesn’t like the way things are going, the CBA expires in 2016 and they can write in language that closes the loophole.

        The thing to remember here is that MLB did offer every player a deal. Had Alex accepted his none of this would be an issue.

      • chip56 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        The other thing is that if MLB tries to suspend a player for 300 games despite anecdotal evidence that he was a 1 time user, I don’t think that suspension gets upheld by arbitration.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 22, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        If the PA doesn’t like the way things are going, the CBA expires in 2016 and they can write in language that closes the loophole.

        Except MLB has positioned themselves to be the one to get something in return for removing this power. This is what people are bringing up. The MLBPA could have said, here have more power and/or make the penalties tougher, but we want a larger share of revenues moving forward? Or more less travel days? Or better beer than Old Milwaukee in the clubhouse? Anything to give up some power.

        But they didn’t, they practically grabbed the handle along with MLB and took a shot at Arod. Now if they want to get something back, they have to agree with MLB about this, and I doubt MLB will be as gracious.

        The other thing is that if MLB tries to suspend a player for 300 games despite anecdotal evidence that he was a 1 time user, I don’t think that suspension gets upheld by arbitration.

        Except I’m pretty sure the arbiter ruled that it was the multiple substances Arod used, and not frequency of use as to why he got 150+ games. In fact, the JDA specifically mentions # of uses (can’t be punished for second without notification of the first).

      • chip56 - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        To your second point first:

        If there’s a player who never tests positive but has the same anecdotal evidence against him that I assume was present against Alex, I would assume the result would be similar. What I’m saying is that if MLB tries to hand an Alex suspension down on a player who doesn’t have nearly that kind of evidence against him, I don’t think Horowitz (or whomever the arbitrator is) would uphold it.

        To the first point:

        Did the Union screw up? Possibly. But if they did it’s because they screwed up in a way that their players wanted them to. I’ve gone through enough negotiations to know that you don’t give up something for nothing, but I also don’t think that the union (or the rank and file players) wanted to be seen as politicking steroids anymore. If Don Fehr was still head of the union this doesn’t happen; however I think part of the reason Fehr is no longer head of the Union is because the players were tired of the MLPA being seen as a group determined to protect PED users rather than the reputations of the clean players.

  4. clydeserra - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    this and the international draft and the draft slotting and the qualifying offer business makes me doubt the latest CBA was good for the players.

    I hope they do better next time

    • jeffbbf - Jan 22, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      oh yeah – major league ballplayers are one step off the bread lines.

      • dglnj - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        And MLB owners are struggling, civic-minded local charities.

    • spursareold - Jan 22, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      There is NO sport in which the players are better off than MLB. They’ve always called the shots since the multiple instances of collusion, and if they gave a little here, so what?

  5. louhudson23 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    It sounds like the players are taking control of their Union. Their failure to do so concerning this issue in the last 10-15 years previous has been much lamented .Apparently,enough really is enough. …Whatever the specifics of this latest chapter to be parsed ad infinitum concerning each nuanced consequence of their actions and what it all means, it is clear that the last 6 months have demonstrated an overall end to the blind eye enabling. They got your back till they see you are guilty and then they are done with you. Take the punishment and STFU.

    • peymax1693 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      I may be wrong, but I don’t think that’s how a union is supposed to work.

  6. plmathfoto - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    From what several others have noted, the players seem to want more severe penalties for peds. I’m fairly certain there hasn’t been a case where a player was accused of peds and found not guilty of use (Ryan Braun temporarily so but we saw how that turned out). Also many of the players were complaining about the huge money the drafted players and international players were getting when unproven, etc..

    It makes sense for the players to think about these things, but it seems the majority agree with all of them.

    That pr job for ARod could open up soon Craig, he has a team so maybe…

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:01 PM

      Also many of the players were complaining about the huge money the drafted players and international players were getting when unproven, etc.

      They should worry about playing, and not being an accountant. The money spent on the draft and/or International players is peanuts compared to the revenues in the game. The highest spending team prior to the draft caps was the Pirates, who spent just over $17M TOTAL for their draft. The Yanks have spent almost $600M this offseason, and they aren’t done.

  7. sdelmonte - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    A pro-union piece on a Fox-owned site. Amazing.

    • Old Gator - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Only if you really think that the MLBPA is a “union.” It’s not. It’s a trade association representing one set of special interests against another.

      • sdelmonte - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        Some conservatives would say that about any union.

        And I think any organization whose guiding light is Marvin Miller is a union in any case.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 22, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      I try – I really do – to stay out of political posts….

      Why does a “pro-union” post on a Fox owned site surprise you? Fox Sports is annoying and gimmicky – but in no way resembles Fox news. For that matter – have you ever seen….ANY show on the Fox network? Ever watch Family Guy?

  8. campcouch - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    You know why there’s such a minority of players who complain about PED users? Those users set the market value for their positions. So a cheater at whatever position becomes the bar that GMs measure their players or FAs during negotiations. If doping player A produces at this level,he gets paid X amount. If player B is close to that level his market value increases because he is “close” to A’s production. It’s not some code or fraternity,it’s money.

  9. Barb Caffrey - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    The player’s union is at fault for not vigorously defending A-Rod, especially with regards to the length of punishment. If this is his first-ever _known_ offense, no matter how egregious, he should’ve gotten a 50-game suspension, then with only the evidence MLB did *not* purchase from bad men to get, if that “clean” evidence was worthy of a lengthier suspension based on the obstruction of justice, well . . . the precedent, set by the arbitrator in Ryan Braun’s case last year, is _fifteen games_.

    So it seems to me that A-Rod can be suspended for 65 games, max. The precedent has been set, but was not followed. And if that’s A-Rod’s lawyer’s argument, it seems to me that maybe he’ll get somewhere.

    However, regardless of whether A-Rod wins or loses in court, the fact of the matter is, the player’s union ceded way too much to the Commissioner’s office . . . for nothing.

    Marvin Miller must be rolling over in his grave.

    • Barb Caffrey - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      Mind, known offense under the current protocols. (I know he admitted to prior steroid use, but that was not actionable and cannot be treated as a prior offense.)

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